Downtown at night
Downtown San Diego at night. Photo by Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons

By Sam Attisha

San Diego’s reputation is growing as an innovation hotbed. Top tech companies such as Qualcomm and Illumina call San Diego home, and more and more companies are attracted to the region, such as Amazon, which is now taking up more than 100,000 square feet of office space in University City. There is also the growing startup economy — ranging from Cox Business’s recent “Get Started San Diego” pitch competition winner GroGuru, with its use of wireless sensors in fertilization innovation, to PointPredictive using machine learning analytics technology to identify auto loan fraud.

The latest CONNECT San Diego Innovation Report found that more than 400 startups have launched in San Diego County since 2014, and San Diego County ranks in the top 10 metro areas nationally for startups, and fourth statewide. As a result, the innovation economy is now generating 25 percent of the region’s GDP. To maintain this attraction and continue to grow San Diego’s innovation economy, the City of San Diego has been working to get “smarter.” Earlier this year, the city joined with the national nonprofit organization US Ignite and Cox Communications to become a “Smart Gigabit Community” and help ignite San Diego’s innovation of next-generation technology.

What does it mean to be a “Smart Gigabit Community?” A US Ignite Smart Gigabit Community leverages gigabit internet speeds to develop and deploy applications that solve community issues and enhance residents’ experiences in transacting with the city, then shares those applications with other Smart Gigabit Communities. San Diego will support the creation of six next-generation applications that provide solutions to some of its community issues or needs, in areas such as public safety, transportation, permitting and community health.

Sam Attisha

To achieve this, a Smart Gigabit Community must have ready access to gigabit connectivity. Cox Communications has enabled this with more than $1 billion invested in the region, deploying gigabit speeds to residents and businesses, and maintaining 12,225 total miles of broadband network. And, Cox continues to invest in its network on a national scale, committing $1 billion over the next five years, which includes investment in its network in San Diego. As part of the Smart Gigabit Communities program, Cleantech San Diego and CyberTECH were selected as the program’s innovation partners to provide the support and infrastructure needed to develop the smart gigabit applications.

As a Smart Gigabit Community, the City will be able to share in the dozens of smart gigabit applications developed in the 20 other cities participating in the program nationwide. These applications promise to dramatically improve the way residents of San Diego live and work.

An example of applications that could be leveraged from other cities include transforming the management of waste and recycling. As cities grow, so does their trash problem. The City of Phoenix has taken the Internet-of-Things to a grand scale with the “things” being trash trucks, and leveraging cloud-based technology to collect, analyze and use data that can help the city manage its recycling and refuse, improve efficiency and reduce costs. It incorporates video, GPS and weight sensors to share data and notifications with tips and route information via smartphones.

An application in development in Kansas City, another Smart Gigabit Community, is a smart pavement system with sections embedded with digital technology and fiber optic connectivity to transform ordinary roads into smart roads. Real-time information about traffic, road conditions and accidents are connected to vehicles on the road, and roads themselves would actually connect cities and communities to become a true super highway.

This is an exciting time for our region as public, private and corporate partnerships help propel San Diego’s efforts to become an even “smarter” community. And, while the specific smart gigabit applications for the City of San Diego are currently being developed, we can look forward to a more efficient, clean and safe city because of them.


A longtime San Diego resident who grew up in El Cajon, Sam Attisha is Senior Vice President and California Region Manager for Cox Communications. He is the incoming Chair of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce for 2018, a board member of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and is on the board of directors and executive committee for the USS Midway Museum. Cox Communication is a corporate partner for the US Ignite nonprofit program. More information about US Ignite is available at www.us-ignite.org.

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